The chief of police in Lethbridge, Alta., says the city's high crime rate is a sign that residents need to take stronger action to prevent illegal activity.
A Statistics Canada report released Tuesday compared the crime rate and crime severity index (CSI) for 35 metropolitan areas in Canada during 2020. Lethbridge topped both lists.
The CSI is a measurement that weighs not just the change in volume of particular crimes but also the seriousness of crimes compared to others.
Lethbridge has a crime severity index of 138.7 for 2020. By comparison, Calgary's score was 78 and Edmonton's was 104.8, according to Statistics Canada.
Chief Shahin Mehdizadeh of the Lethbridge Police Service says many of the crimes being reported in his city are crimes of opportunity and they could be easily prevented.
"As long as we are an easy target for criminals to commit crime, we are going to see these numbers, period. And I can have a thousand more police officers in this city," he said.
"But if people still leave their keys in their vehicles, leave their doors open … the crime is going to happen."
According to the Statistics Canada report, Lethbridge had a crime rate of 10,697 per 100,000 people last year. Calgary's rate was 5,482 per 100,000. The rate in Edmonton was 7,637 per 100,000.
A spokesperson for the city of Lethbridge told CBC News the city has been experiencing high CSI rates over the last several years due in part to an ongoing drug crisis and the crimes associated with it.
"This is not just a policing issue. It's complex and requires the collaboration of areas like addictions and mental health, supportive housing, health care, the legal system and our own city programs and services to all be contributing towards solutions," said Tara Grindle in an email.
"We are grateful to see the recent announcements from the provincial government for additional addictions and mental health supports as well as supportive housing in the Lethbridge area as we continue to work together in addressing the needs of our community."
Mehdizadeh says that despite still being high, the index and crime rate in Lethbridge have actually dropped year over year.
And he says that so far in 2021, the figures continue to move in a downward trend.
The CSI in Lethbridge dipped three per cent in 2020 from the year before, while the crime rate fell by 10 per cent.
Statistics Canada noted in its report that both CSI scores and crime rates fell substantially in communities across the country in 2020 as the pandemic kept people at home and reduced opportunities for many types of crime.
In Calgary, the CSI dipped by 17 per cent in 2020 while the crime rate fell by 18 per cent.